Here I am, planning away at my annual firm retreat… HAPPY AS A CLAM! So, how did that come to pass?
Well it may have something to do with trading my suit for a hoodie (not gonna lie) and being in the countryside (also nice).
But if that were it, there wouldn’t be much of a mystery to planning great retreats would there?
So, why do some lawyers, accountants and other professionals dread their firm retreats?
Maybe they have yet to have an actual good experience.
Speaking about this topic and assisting our clients with their retreats, it’s become clear that many firms struggle with what their retreat should be about:
- Is it a team bonding experience?
- A perk for the partners?
- A long partner meeting?
- Something in between?
Well, let me help you out with that. The answer is no. It’s not any of the above.
That’s not to say that there isn’t value in a purely social event for the firm or even an extended management meeting, should there be complex, operational issues to sort out.
But that’s not what your retreat is for. And retreats that sit in this nowhereland of not really being a social event, not really being a meeting and not really being a something else, well that’s what leaves people feeling disengaged.
How can that be helped? Two things come to mind:
- Follow some best practices for the retreat itself, including thorough advance planning, professional facilitation and commitment to follow through.
- Actually talk to your naysayers during the planning period. Rather than trying to sell people on the event or just doing what you always do and hoping they will come around, engage participants beforehand. Ask them what they would like to see happen at the retreat and what their concerns are about past retreats (either at your firm or at a firm they worked for previously).
The point is, find out what’s on people’s minds before establishing a plan. So it’s not just talk, but you can actually do something about their input.
Then be prepared to be surprised. After being invited into the planning process, people may feel they have some ownership in the event and look forward to participating!
Engagement. That’s half the battle.